Someday, I want to create a story or novella with the title, "Art and the Maintenance of Motorcycle Zen." It would be a kind of sincerely felt, but also maybe vaguely comedic tribute, to Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that I was jotting down a few snippets that might pertain to such a story.
I am reminded of this today because I have heard that Pirsig has died. I have to say that Pirsig's book, and even some of his other activities, have had multilayered influences on my life.
I first read his book as a high school senior, I think. And it was a required text in my "freshman seminar," my first year at college. The book is easily in my personal list of "10 most influential books in my life." It might be the most influential book.
Some of this influence and importance derives from the very weird parallels between the book and my life. And it's an eerie set of parallels, because I read (and re-read) the book before many of those parallels occurred (ECT? check. Zen? check. Philosophical road tripping? check.). So the question naturally arises: did I, perhaps, subconsciously "follow" the book?
Certainly there is one very significant instance, where I think the book might have had a conscious influence. The main character, like Pirsig, is from Minneapolis. And perhaps this raised my awareness about that part of the world sufficiently that it made it possible for me to imagine going there – which is what I did for college. Not many California kids would move to Minnesota, sight-unseen, and so I think the book's presentation of the midwestern landscape embedded it higher up in my awareness, such that I might consider it. I guess it's difficult to say for sure – I remember tracing the route of his motorcycle journey in a road atlas, during my first reading. A line, drawn from Minneapolis to the west coast, that, incidentally passed through my home town on the Pacific, which is actually mentioned in the book (although not as a destination – just in a "passing through" way). That line was effectively reversed when I went to college less than a year later.
The other impact Pirsig had on my life came much later, and was indirect, I suppose - essentially unrelated to the book. He was one of the founders of the Minnesota Zen Center. When I moved back to Minneapolis in 2006 (the year before deciding to come to Korea), I attended the Zen Center a dozen times or so. Its location on Lake Calhoun was within walking distance of where I was living, and since I was working to transform my life and habits, I was walking or jogging past it daily - going around that lake was one of my new habits.
So Robert Pirsig is gone.
But, in the Buddhist spirit, I shall interpretatively paraphrase my friend Curt: "Death is nothing."
[daily log: walking, 7km]